Turbotodd

Ruminations on tech, the digital media, and some golf thrown in for good measure.

Archive for April 2018

The Spy Who Tracked Me

with one comment

This is a juicy headline from Bloomberg: U.K. Reveals its First Major Cyber-Attack Was Against IS

GCHQ isn’t typically known for advertising its very-much-behind-the-scenes-on-the-down-low headline making when it comes to espionage, cyber or otherwise.

But according to this Bloomberg report, Britain “carried out its first major cyber-attack in 2017, disrupting Islamic State’s communications and propaganda for much of the year.”

“This is the first time the U.K. has systematically and persistently degraded an adversary’s online efforts as part of a wider military campaign,” [GCHQ Director Jeremy] Fleming told a cybersecurity conference in Manchester, England, “Did it work? I think it did.”

Fleming (great last night for a spy head, right?) also mentioned Russia in his comments:

The use of a nerve agent against former double agent Sergei Skripal, he said, “demonstrates how reckless Russia is prepared to be, how little the Kremlin cares for the international rules-based order.” Russia “widely uses its cyber capabilities,” Fleming said, “blurring the boundaries between criminal and state activity” and deploying “industrial-scale disinformation to sway public opinion.”

Written by turbotodd

April 12, 2018 at 12:59 pm

I Can’t Get Rid of My Friends!

leave a comment »

Okay, Mark Zuckerberg probably had a less rosy day on Capitol Hill yesterday in front of the House, but overall, I would have to say he acquitted himself well.

As for that whole thing I mentioned in an earlier posts about the Senators and Congresspeople hopefully being well briefed by their staffs…well, you could tell from the questioning either A) that didn’t happen or B) the Senators and Congresspeople just didn’t have the depth of knowledge necessary to follow up with thoughtful and probing interrogatory.

Facebook definitely won this round.  Ding ding!

But tech journalists who *do* have some technical chops continue to probe around the edges to find privacy and related holes in Facebook’s business model and capabilities.

Brian Chen, a New York Time’s technology journalist, recently downloaded his full data from Facebook using a tool Facebook has made available to the public.

Chen noted in the piece that his Facebook profile is “sparse” and that he rarely posts anything on the site, and seldom clicks on ads.

And yet within a few clicks of looking through the data, he “learned that about 500 advertisers — many that I had never heard of, like Bad Dad, a motorcycle parts store, and Space Jesus, an electronic band — had my contact information, which could include my email address, phone number, and full name.”

Welcome to Mark Zuckerberg’s closet, Brian.

He also learned that an index file contact the 764 names and phone numbers of everyone in his iPhone’s address book, which Facebook had uploaded when Chen was setting up Facebook Messenger.

Welcome to Mark Zuckerberg’s garage, Brian.

He indicated that Facebook “also kept a history of each time I open Facebook over the last two years, including which device and web browser I used. On Sundays, it even logged my locations, like when I was in a hospital two years ago or when I visited Tokyo last year.”

Welcome to Mark Zuckerberg’s attic, Brian.

But, Chen wrote, what really got his goat was the data he  “had explicitly deleted but that lingered in plain sight.”

He indicated that on his friends list, Facebook had a record of “removed friends,” a dossier of the 112 people he had removed along with the date he had clicked the “unfriend” button. Why should Facebook remember the people he cut off from his life?

Because, Brian.  

It’s Facebook, and that’s what Facebook is and that’s what Facebook does.

And that’s what you, me, and 2 billion other people on the planet signed up for.

Welcome to Mark Zuckerberg’s mansion, Brian.

Written by turbotodd

April 12, 2018 at 9:31 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , ,

You Thought You Had a Bad Tuesday

leave a comment »

You thought you had a bad Tuesday?

You weren’t sitting in front of a bunch of hot lights and a swarm of photographers before a joint session of the Commerce and Judiciary committees on Capitol Hill.

Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, was, and judging from coverage of his “performance,” he was a calm and cool customer, absorbing jibes, barbs, and other commentary and questions from a Senate with a wide range of perspectives (No report I’ve seen yet as to how many of the senators had taken campaign contributions from his inquisitors).

The Verge did a nice job of breaking down some of the key issues raised, and who raised them.

  • Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) asked about Facebook’s monopoly power (As in, IS Facebook one?). Zuckerberg: “It certainly doesn’t feel like that to me.”
  • Multiple senators raised the issue of whether Zuckerberg might consider a paid, ad-free version of Facebook. Zuckerberg said it was possible, but that there would always be a free version.
  • Leaning on AI to improve moderation on the platform: Zuckerberg “invoked the promise of AI to help Facebook quickly sort through hate speech and other problematic posts.”

In terms of actionability, Zuckerberg referred repeatedly to changes in the product that will better prevent data leakage and make privacy shortcuts easier to find, as well as restrict data shared with developers.

Will it be enough to keep regulation and/or legislation at bay? Doubtful. On the other hand, I hardly see a pro-regulatory government about to completely throw the book at one of the world’s most successful Internet companies.

So I’ll quote from that bastion of Congressional wisdom, SchoolHouse Rock’s “I’m Just a Bill”:

I’m just a bill
Yes I’m only a bill,
And I got as far as Capitol Hill.
Well, now I’m stuck in committee
And I’ll sit here and wait 
While a few key Congressmen discuss and debate
Whether they should let me be a law.
How I hope and pray that they will,
But today I am still just a bill.

Written by turbotodd

April 11, 2018 at 8:58 am

Posted in 2018, facebook, legislation, privacy

Tagged with , ,

Congrats to Captain America

leave a comment »

Congrats to Captain America (Patrick Reed) on winning his first major at Augusta National yesterday!

Reed went into the final round at -14, and ended at -15 — but it was enough to hold off late charges from 2015 Masters winner Jordan Spieth, and Ricky Fowler.

It was another dramatic final round at The Masters, and one that kept golf fans around the globe on the edge of their seat.

Reed was paired with Rory McIlroy for the final round, after Rory turned in a 69 on moving day to enter Sunday just three strokes behind Captain America.  

And after having witnessed that tremendous Ryder Cup singles pairing at Hazeltine in 2016 between Reed and McIlroy (which Reed won 1 up), expectations were high for this final round.

But Reed refused to concede any ground, and Rory just couldn’t get it going on Sunday — his Grand Slam will have to wait.

Written by turbotodd

April 9, 2018 at 2:18 pm

Posted in 2018, golf, masters

Tagged with , ,

First Day at the Masters

leave a comment »

The first day at the 2018 Masters seems to have proven itself worthy of the hype.

The conditions seemed optimum, and both top players and some fresh names took advantage of them.

IBM powers the website at http://www.masters.com and mobile apps, and between the MyMasters and the “Featured Groups” features it’s proven easier than ever to follow the action remotely.

Thoughts on what I saw from round 1:

  • The greens look monstrously fast. Just ask Sergio Garcia, who bombed a 320-yard drive on the par-5 15 only to have his 207-yard approach shot spin back into the water. Then he proceeded to have a Tin Cup moment, hitting four more wedge shots that also spun back into the drink. It was painful to watch, especially considering Garcia won the green jacket last year
  • Jordan Spieth stirred up another record, birdie-ing five holes in a row on the back 9, 13-14-15-16-17.  It was quite a run, and when he didn’t birdie, his par and bogey saves were spectacular (particularly his chip shot at 18). It’s like Jordan can will the ball to, if not go into the hole, to stop right next to it. He led going into the second round at six-under.
  • China’s Li Haotong, who is only 22 years and is from Hunan Province, shot a stellar three-under 69, which put him only 3 strokes behind Spieth after the first round.
  • Tiger Woods had a mixed-bag round, but he’s certainly still in the hunt, finishing at one over for the first round. Woods got shafted when a line drive out of the woods on 11 hit a man’s chair, a ball that looked destined for the green. But as Sports Illustrated observed overnight with this headline, “Only a fool would write off Tiger Woods after first round at Augusta!” (Although if he doesn’t start making some birdies on those par 5s…)

We’re well into day two, and (SPOILER ALERT), currently the leaderboard is jumbled up with four co-leaders at three-under. So, nobody’s going way low thus far, and it’s proving to be a vicious fight to the weekend cutline!

Written by turbotodd

April 6, 2018 at 12:29 pm

Posted in 2018, golf

Tagged with

IT Spending: Steady in the Clouds

leave a comment »

Let’s get the most important stuff out of the way first. 

Tiger tees off in the first round of this year’s Masters at 10:42, grouped with Australia’s Marc Leishman and England’s Tommy Fleetwood.

You can feel the Augusta Tiger buzz all over the world (okay, the golf world, anyway).

But enough golf, let’s talk IT spending.

Today’s Wall Street Journal “Morning Download” email had this headline: “IT Spending Outlook is Steady Despite Volatile Days in Tech.”

Volatile? Amazon has lost more than $50 billion of market value in the last week, Facebook somewhere north of that.

But despite that, the talk of trade tariffs and regulation, the Journal reports that “the outlook for spending on information technology appears steady.”

The estimate was based on a survey of 75 U.S. and 25 European CIOs at companies in a range of industries conducted by Morgan Stanley (and most of the firms with more than $1 billion in annual revenue.)

What’s driving the increase? First, the cloud.

The report “found that IT budgets at these firms are set to increase 5.4%, slightly up from 5.2% last year, and that “budget gains are being driven by ongoing growth in cloud computing.” It suggested that 25% of total application workloads will be running in the cloud by the end of the year (up from 20% today).

Cloud was one priority spending area, and security software was cited as another.

Fifty-nine percent indicated they “do not expect changes in tax rates, appreciated depreciation, and cash repatriation” to impact their 2018 IT spending plans, and 29% indicated the tax changes would likely put upward pressure on spending.

A Gartner forecast from earlier this year had projected estimates of IT spend to reach $3.7 trillion in 2018, a YOY increase of 4.5%.

Written by turbotodd

April 5, 2018 at 10:06 am

The Masters Moments

leave a comment »

We’re less than 24 hours away from the most eagerly anticipated Masters golf tournament in recent years.

My journey there last year to see it all live and in person was the opportunity of a lifetime, and a memory I’ll cherish forever.

For a rabid golf fan, it’s the planet around which all other competitions orbit.

But you don’t have to go there in person to appreciate the drama and the beauty of Augusta National.

IBM has partnered with The Masters for 20+ years on the technology used to bring the tournament into a digital experience, and each year the capabilities just get more fascinating.

This year, fans will once again be able to follow the action both on the www.masters.com web site as well as via the Masters Tournament app.

What to look out for this year:

  • LIVE simulcast of broadcast coverage Thursday through Sunday
  • Additional live video streams, including of tournament play at Amen Corner and Featured Groups
  • Masters on the Range — watch the warmups!
  • A “Spoiler Free” mode that will allow you to turn off score-related notifications
  • Shot Tracking Feature — A way to follow each shot on the course, following any player and view every shot, in real time. But don’t let your boss see (unless they’re a golf fan!)

IBM is also putting Watson back to work at The Masters, this time with a “My Moments” capability that uses Watson’s AI magic to create a personalized highlight reel.

This new feature can help you catch up on the great shots of the tournament that you might have missed from your favorite players, as well as the most important shots of the day.

How will it work?  IBM’s AI assistant will “watch” all live-stream video, then parse out clips by recognizing the start and end of a player’s shot.

It will identify the player, the hole they’re playing, and then determine how highlight-worthy the shot is by examining three key vectors: The audio track of the crowd, player gestures (fist pumps, hands in the air, facial emotions, etc.), and a transcription of the broadcast commentary (which Watson will then analyze to highlight emotive keywords).

All this will help the Masters digital team move faster and get the best clips to the global golf audience as quickly as possible.

I have a hunch it’s going to be a Masters for the ages…don’t miss a moment of it (or, at least, the key moments)!

You can download the iOS version of The Masters app here and the Android version here.

Written by turbotodd

April 4, 2018 at 12:23 pm

Posted in 2018, golf, PGA, pga tour

Tagged with

The Assault on YouTube

leave a comment »

I got news of the tragic shooting at YouTube yesterday afternoon probably just an hour or so after Nasim Najafi Aghdam started her shooting spree the company’s San Bruno HQ’s outside lunch area.

My heart goes out to everyone in the YouTube family, and the community of San Bruno and the surrounding area, who were impacted by this ghastly attack.

I can’t remember where I first heard or saw it — it may have been Twitter.

But all I could remember thinking was, “Here we go…again.”

At first, coverage suggested it was a disgruntled girlfriend in a domestic dispute.

But now BuzzFeed News has reported that Ms. Aghdam, who had been a prolific social media contributor generally and YouTube contributor specifically, had previously alleged the company had “discriminated and filtered” her videos. Her father was quoted as saying she “hated” the company.

And though San Bruno police were quoted in the story as saying that “at this time there is no evidence that the shooter knew the victims of this shooting or that individuals were specifically targeted,” it hardly seems an accident that she landed on the doorstep of YouTube’s HQ.

So that’s where we’ve arrived now?!

Your videos get de-listed on YouTube, so you pack up the car and the handgun and drive north from San Diego to San Bruno and start shooting up the place?

Has our lust for attention and recognition via social media reached so far beyond the pale that it has now begun to exceed our collective humanity and civility?

I understand that Ms. Aghdam was very likely a disturbed individual, by definition. Yet to carry out such an act for the most mundane of grievances…well, we’ve reached a new low.

And from Ms. Aghdam’s highlt distorted view, this grievance was likely attributable to some unnamed, unfaced human editor(s) at YouTube.

But what happens in our brave new world when it wasn’t expressly a human that decided the fate of her videos, but an algorithm built by humans?

Who are the disgruntled Ms. Aghdam’s of the world going to go after then?

I’m not sure there is a good or bad or right or wrong answer, but it’s  a question we’re going to have to start asking ourselves and soon.

Because I expect the wider the widening gulf between the machines making seemingly indiscriminate decisions and the humans affected by those decisions, the higher velocity of such attacks.

Written by turbotodd

April 4, 2018 at 9:45 am

Posted in 2018, video

Tagged with ,

The Masters: Primed for Some Serious Golf

leave a comment »

It’s Master’s week. 

My favorite time of the year.

And this year’s tournament at “The National” is primed to be a doozy.

Tiger Woods is back, and has already been on the prowl in a couple of recent tournaments.

Bubba Watson and Phil Mickelson, both lefties with an advantage at Augusta National and previous Masters victors, have won prestigious PGA victories in recent weeks with some fantastic golf.

Rory McIlroy also won recently, the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill.

All these previous winners have been peaking, not to mention Ian Poulter who just snuck in the back door of this year’s tournament by winning last weekend’s Houston Open in a playoff with Beau Hossler. That was, by the way, Poulter’s first stroke-play victory in the U.S. ever.

Jordan Spieth, who led the field in Houston in strokes gained tee-to-green this past weekend, and a previous Master’s winner in 2015. 

Justin Thomas. Won the Honda and is the FedExCup leader going into this week.

My point is, there are some seriously great and motivated golfers heading into this year’s Master’s.

I’m not going to pretend to predict a winner, but if you had me pick a top four at this point, it would probably include Bubba, Phil, Tiger, and Jordan.

But honestly, there’s so many great players playing so well…well that’s why this year’s Masters is primed for some serious golf!

Follow all the action at www.masters.com

Written by turbotodd

April 3, 2018 at 9:57 am

Posted in 2018, golf, masters

Tagged with

Grindr Reveals HIV Status, Location Data to Third Parties

leave a comment »

The privacy morasse plot thickens.

BuzzFeed reported yesterday via an independent data analysis by an outside research firm that show popular gay dating app is sharing its users’ HIV status with two outside companies.

The gay hookup app Grindr, which has more than 3.6 million daily active users across the world, has been providing its users’ HIV status to two other companies, BuzzFeed News has learned.

The two companies — Apptimize and Localytics, which help optimize apps — receive some of the information that Grindr users choose to include in their profiles, including their HIV status and “last tested date.”

Because the HIV information is sent together with users’ GPS data, phone ID, and email, it could identify specific users and their HIV status, according to Antoine Pultier, a researcher at the Norwegian nonprofit SINTEF, which first identified the issue.

If the Nixonian saying was “It’s not the cover up but the crime,” perhaps the 21st century privacy counterpart should be along the lines of, “It’s not the first use of the information, it’s the unintended third party use.”

As BuzzFeed’s article points out, Grindr is a unique place for openness about one’s HIV status, but to have that information shared with third parties that an individual was never notified about…that’s a safety risk, and one that should whose mitigation should best be left with the individual and not Grindr.

George Orwell’s not only spinning in his grave, he’s doing triple axels in multiples of three at a time.

Privacy may not be dead, but it sure has taken a beating in the first three months of 2018. 

Written by turbotodd

April 3, 2018 at 9:33 am

Posted in 2018, data security, privacy

Tagged with ,

%d bloggers like this: